Norwich City (2) 2 Arsenal (1) 2
Carrow Road, Norwich NR1 3JE
Sunday, 1st December 2019. Kick-off time: 2.00pm
(4-3-1-2) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Mattéo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Joe Willock; Mesut Özil; Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira, Nicolas Pépé, Emiliano Martínez, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (28 mins, 57 mins)
Yellow Cards: Calum Chambers
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 61%
Referee: Paul Tierney
And so, on a cold and brisk afternoon in Norfolk, a new beginning unfolds for us all. So much has been said and done in the past forty-eight hours, it would seem almost churlish to repeat things that we all already know and have opinions about; except to say that we now have a caretaker manager in the form of the popular ex-player Freddie Ljungberg, and not only is it our duty to support him and the players through this period of transition, but ourselves too. Make no mistake, in a very short while, we will discover just who the chosen one is to take over the manager’s role permanently from Unai Emery; all we can hope is that the recommendation of Raul Sanllehi, Edu and Vinai Venkatesham in their report to various Kroenkes is the correct one for everyone involved. After all, in the impatient world that modern football inhabits, Arsenal Football Club surely cannot afford to make the same mistakes in their managerial choice again.
We started the match brightly enough, and as early as the fourth minute Alexandre Lacazette was unlucky not to score with a good effort that went wide of the post. Arsenal appeared to find confidence in their movement, both on and off the ball, with most of the action being in the Norwich half; Shkodran Mustafi’s header was cleared off the line, and despite the odd breakout by the home side, the first quarter of an hour showed our dominance. Calum Chambers was also desperately unlucky not to score with a glancing header from a Mesut Özil corner, and it became clear that Norwich City’s zonal marking system was not exactly working in their favour. However, totally against the run of play, Teemu Pukki ran onto a through ball, and his shot went past Bernd Leno (via a deflection from Shkodran Mustafi) to give the home side the lead after twenty minutes.
In a controversial period of the match, just a couple of minutes later, a wicked cross from the right caught defender Christoph Zimmerman’s carelessly positioned upright arm and a penalty was given to us; subsequently goalkeeper Tim Krul saved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s initial strike, but because of encroachment, VAR was consulted again and this time our captain made no mistake in equalising the scores. This incident merely served to fire both sides up, and by now some careless tackles from both teams were flying around, in which it was a miracle no-one was booked. Despite all of our considerable efforts, the home side took the lead through a strike from Todd Cantwell in injury time when we were caught by a counter-attack, which meant that we went into the break 1-2 down, quite undeservedly it has to be said.
The second half started more doggedly with Arsenal constantly attempting to break down a stoic Norwich City defence; again we were caught by a counter attack by the home side in which we were fortunate to address the situation adequately. Twelve minutes after the restart, we drew level with a superb opportunist goal from our captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when he was hovering, unmarked on the edge of the Norwich six-yard box; when the ball came to him from a corner (via a Calum Chambers header), he made no mistake. The home side came back at us in earnest, and poor marking from our defenders almost led to a third Norwich City goal on three occasions; thankfully Bernd Leno was more attentive than the Arsenal defence.
Entering the last twenty minutes of the match, it seemed as if every time the home side came forward, they looked like they were going to score, and so, recognising this, Joe Willock was substituted for Lucas Torreira, in an attempt to shore up the midfield; now we had serious work to do here. More pressure was put on us, so with fourteen minutes left, Bukayo Saka replaced Mattéo Guendouzi, thus giving us more width. It certainly worked, as were able to apply more pressure in vital areas of the pitch. And so the battle continued with no quarter given nor taken. Gabriel Martinelli took the place of Mesut Özil with two minutes of the match remaining. Bernd Leno was absolutely immense in this game, and the saves that he made in injury time kept us in the match. In the dying moments, Lucas Torreira was desperately unlucky not to score, but sadly it was not to be, and we went home with a draw.
Overall, it was certainly better than we had any right to expect, given our recent run of results. We moved quicker around the pitch than previously and we certainly played with more purpose. But the same old problems arise, particularly with regards to the defence, which is still porous, and has a serious absence of leadership. The marking isn’t tight enough, and the defence has the annoying habit of going to sleep at crucial points in the match. Having said that, we came back twice to earn this draw, and a point is certainly better than nothing. No doubt about it, Freddie Ljungberg has a lot of work to do here, and only time will tell how many of these players will still be at the club this time next year.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Brighton and Hove Albion at The Emirates on Thursday, 5th December at 8.15pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.